Face-to-Face: Meet Lauren Jackson
Ever wonder if anyone else is facing the same professional challenges as you? Or just looking to connect with some new people in your field? In IFT's Face-to-Face series, we will be introducing you to a different IFT member every month with a fun, insightful Q&A session.
This month meet...
Lauren Jackson, Ph.D., Research Food Technologist and Acting Chief of the Food Chemistry & Nutrition Team at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Institute for Food Safety & Health (IFSH)
- How did you get interested in food science?
I attribute my fortuitous entry into the field of food science to excellent advice I received from my high school guidance counselor, Ms. Barbara Kahn. While in high school, I had plans of majoring in biochemistry or biology and eventually applying to medical school. Ms. Kahn suggested that I think about food science as a major in college, based on her description of several food sciences she took while an undergraduate at Cornell University, and the ability of food scientists to find jobs upon graduation. Her suggestions were enough to convince me to major in food science at Cornell University, where I received my B.S. degree.
While an undergraduate at Cornell, I was fortunate to be able to work in Dr. Dennis Miller’s laboratory where I was able to assist some of the graduate students with their work and conduct a short research project of my own. This initiation into research was responsible for my desire to further my education and obtain M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in food science, both of which I received at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In 1991, the FDA was hiring food scientists to work at the newly established National Center for Food Safety and Technology (NCFST; now a part of IFSH), located in Bedford Park, IL. At that time, I was lucky enough to obtain a post-doctoral position at FDA/NCFST, and after several years, I was promoted to my current position (Research Food Technologist). I never regretted my decision to pursue a career in food science; in fact, I recently contacted my high school guidance counselor to thank her for her excellent advice!
- What do you love about studying food science and what area of food science do you hope to get a job in?
My job requires that I work on several different projects and activities, all of which make my job both interesting and challenging. As a research scientist at FDA/IFSH, I am involved in planning and conducting scientific studies that focus on the effects of processing on formation and destruction of natural toxins in food, and ways to control allergens in food manufacturing facilities. Since IFSH is a consortium of government, academia, and the food industry, I am able to collaborate with scientists throughout the world, which I find very rewarding. Another great aspect of my job is the freedom I have to get involved with organizations such as IFT, which allows me to remain connected to the food science community.
- What is the biggest challenge that you face in your job and/or studies?
Time management is my biggest challenge because there simply are not enough hours in a day to do all aspects of my work, remain involved with IFT and other scientific organizations, and spend time with my family. My New Year’s resolution is to learn how to better juggle all of life’s activities!
- What have you learned or been exposed to in the past 12 months that has helped you in your job?
I recently completed a 2-year term as Program Chair/Chair of the Agricultural and Food Chemistry Division (AGFD) of the American Chemical Society (ACS). This experience was very challenging since it required many tasks that had to be completed in a very short time frame such as developing scientific programs for the two ACS conferences that occur in the year, preparing reports for the division, and nominating scientists for ACS awards. I also found the experience to be very rewarding in that I was able to work with a fantastic group of smart and motivated colleagues from AGFD, and help the division put on excellent and well-attended scientific programs at the ACS conferences in Philadelphia and New Orleans.
- How do you see the food industry evolving over the coming year?
Over the next year, the food industry will be busy trying to comply with the new FSMA rules. I also see that the industry will continue in its trend of developing healthier processed foods.
- Fun Fact: What’s your favorite food?
In my opinion, you can’t get better than a Neapolitan pizza and salad.
If you are an IFT member and wish to be profiled, please contact Kelly Hensel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-604-0211.